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Methods for Isolating Impact of Training
Submitted by Leslie Allan on April 28th, 2011
Many training professionals get very stressed at the thought of objectively measuring the business impact of their training program. A prime cause of the stress is the difficulty of isolating the impact of the training program when there may be other factors at play. An increase in sales after a sales training program for sales executives may be due to an upturn in the economy and not the training.
Let’s get one thing settled first. It’s not always appropriate to try to isolate the impact of training on a business outcome. When is it not appropriate? It’s not appropriate when the training program is but one component of an integrated change or improvement program. In my book on training evaluation, I use the example of machine operators being trained in quality improvement techniques. In this case, it’s a methodological error to try to isolate the impact of training from the other aspects of the program, such as forming teams, revising the incentive program and setting up a document management system.
Translating this advice to our sales training example, if the sales training is integrated with the implementation of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database, then it would make no sense to isolate the impact of the training from the effects of using the new CRM database. The benefits arising from the one inextricably depend on the other.
The good news is that there are influences for which it does make sense to try to isolate the impact of training. These include a host of influences internal and external to the organization, such as the health of the economy, new competitors entering the market, internal IT system breakdowns, and so on. I think the three most effective methods for isolating the impact of training on business results are:
plotting a trend line,
using a control group, and
using matched pairs.
Each method has its benefits and limitations. Where quantitative data collection is either too difficult or too expensive to undertake, you can ask various stakeholders for estimates of the various impacts on results. This should be the method of last resort as estimates by their nature include a significant subjective element.
My popular Training Evaluation Toolkit explains all of the above methods and provides guidance, examples, tools and techniques for each of them. With this toolkit, you will be able to plan your evaluation exercise, collect all relevant data, isolate non-training factors and then analyze and report the results convincingly to your key stakeholders. The toolkit is packaged with a full set of reusable and customizable Microsoft Word forms and Excel calculation worksheets for all of your measurement and reporting needs. Find out more about my Training Evaluation Toolkit and download the free introductory chapter today.